I Just Love Doing A Time Study – Don’t You?

A Time Study Gives You So Much Information

As the name implies you are going to study how you spend your time, in detail.  We all have repetitive tasks and we have a general idea of how long it takes to complete those tasks, but do you really know how long they take?  And what happens when you have a new task, how do you know how long you are spending on that task?  How do you know where you are wasting time and what you should be outsourcing?

First you need to take your most common tasks and set a timer to see how long you spend completing the task.  Now the important part here is to time yourself more than once doing each task.  Timing yourself once doesn’t count.  If it is a daily task, you want to track your time for at least 10 different days.  Tasks that are done multiple times a day, I suggest you track your time on these tasks for a full week.  The tasks that are done more sporadically are harder to pin down, but still worth the effort.

Write it Down

I know old fashioned pen and paper – they help to provide a visual reminder.  I suggest you keep a seperate piece of paper for each timed task, and break down the tasks and time each element or step needed to complete the task.

Heres and example:  Writing a Blog Post – I want to know the total time it takes, but there are several steps involved.  I have to have a topic, then create an outline, choose photos or graphics to use in the post, add monetization (if appropirate), make sure there is a call to action.  That is all just the preperation steps, and each one should have it’s own start and end time, as well as a start and end time for all of the prep work, and this is just one part of the total time it takes to write a blog post.  I hope you get the idea.

Now I want you to do this for each task you do.  If you love data, you will love doing a time study.  If you hate data, you will be amazed at all you will learn about how you are spending your time, and you will hardly even notice it came from data ;).

What Do You Do With All This Knowledge?

As I said, this will give you lots of information and you will have to decide what you want to act upon now, and what you want to disregard.  You get to see if it really takes you as long as you think it does for your tasks.  This can be very helpful when you are ready to outsource, you know how long it takes to complete the given task and you know how much your are willing to pay to gain back that amount of time.

You will have some data that you think is interesting, but you won’t know how to apply it to make improvements in your business, don’t let this bother you, just let it go.  In the future it may becomemore relevant, or maybe not.  My point here is to act upon the information that is relevant to improving your business right now, and do it.

Time is our most precious resource, the one thing we can never replace, make sure you are using your time wisely.

Please share your experience in the comments below.

How often do you shred?

Or should I ask, do you shred at all?

We deal with lots of private information all day long and while more and more of it is handled electronically, how do you deal sensitive paperwork?

I have a fantastic shredder that I picked up at a local yard sale.  It is heavy duty and does a great job, the only drawback is that it is not a cross cut shredder.  It is also an older model, so I have to be careful not to shred too much in a single session, it will just stop if it gets overworked.

My husband and one of his good friends also like to have bonfires outside burning fireand I am happy to let them use my already shredded paper or to be shredded paper to help get the blaze going.  Do you ever use burning as an alternative to shredding?

What do you shred?

I worry that I am shredding more than I need to and I could just throw away or recycle some of the items I spend my time shredding.  Anything that has my social security number is a no-brainer, and I like to make sure to shred anything that has my date of birth also, though I know that information is pretty easy to find.m

I try to also shred anything that has account numbers, better safe than sorry.

And client information.  Client notes and of course and financial information, though it is rare that I have direct access to financial information.  When I am working 1-on1 with a client, I am always taking notes, sometimes they are worth reviewing and sometimes they are random words and ideas that really weren’t all that significant afterall, but I do keep them for a period of time and it does help me as I prepare for each session.  The big question for me with client information is how long to hang on to it, or when to shred it?

So am I putting too much thought into shredding?  Do you struggle with any of these issues or other shredding related issues? I would love to hear your  thoughts in the comments below.

Is Your Email Inbox Out of Control?

I realized last week that there are several emails that I just delete as soon as I see who the sender is.  So the obvious next question was “why don’t I just unsubscribe?”  Personall, I just don’t like to unsubscribe if I have purchased a product from that person.  So I didn’t hit delete when I received the next email, I researched, and in many cases, I had never made the purchase.

Trash Bin IconI unsubscribed.  I then deleted any emails I may have saved of theirs, because if I stopped opening the emails and removed myself from the list, I didn’t need to read or re-read anything I had saved.  I use gmail and create lots of folders, so once the folders were empty, I deleted those too.

It was liberating.  Like taking the bra off at the end of the day liberating.

It encouraged me to keep looking and find more to get rid of.  By the time I was done I had deleted 15 folders (some of these I had unsubscribed previously, but never deleted the emails or folders).

Now it is easier to find items in my inbox and I don’t have as much coming in.  And if I’m honest I’m sure I could cut back even further.

One of the reasons I was able to make these drastic actions is that I have been more clear on my business model.  I love to learn, but it can be distracting when trying to build a business.  Some days I feel like a dog – Squirrel.  My attention flits from one topic to the next.  I have literally stood in my dining room and turned around 4 times trying to decide what I wanted to do first/next.  This has included too many interests in business as well.  But focus and commitment have allowed me to be more organized and really to allow me to grow my business and my life.

The hardest part of organizing is the idea of letting go.  We have all had that experience that as soon as you throw something away you end up needing it, so we hang on to more than we need.  If your inbox is full or emails that don’t bring you joy, can you unsubscibe from the sender?  Can you have an assistant handle them?

Email is a part of our lives, and as solopreneurs, we have to juggle our work and non-work emails, often at the same time, we need to have a system, but before we can even develop a system we have to be clear on what emails are priorities, what emails bring us joy, and what emails can we don’t really want.

I know that cleaning up your email inbox may not seem like a priority, if you have too much email, like I did, it really will free up your time.  Just don’t get lost down a rabbit trail – be decisive.

I would love to hear how you did in the comments below.

One Thing You Can Do To Break The Cycle of Quitting

You know how much you love to start organizing your office and then you get distracted.  And, guess what, it didn’t get done again.  Of course, now we feel like a failure…again.  Let me tell you the best way to avoid this dreadful outcome.

I know you have heard this before, and the reason is because it works, break your tasks down into steps.

So, for instance, you have a physical or digital filing problem.  You sit down and start filing things into the folders you already have, and what about the files you need to create.  Are you creating those on the spot or are you setting all those aside and filing them at the end.  Do you have a huge pile – is it more than you can handle in a single sitting?  If so, when are you going to finish the job?

Ask and answer these questions ahead of time and you will be on a roll in no time.

Organizing can often seem overwhelming, and we can get very emotionally involved with our stuff.  So even though we have a great plan that details each step along the way, our emotions may become a stumbling block.  If this becomes a problem, remind yourself of why you want to get organized in the first place.  Write down what a clean office or computer desktop will do for you.  Will you be able to serve more customers because you are organized?  Will you enjoy your work more once the clutter is gone?

Once you have your “why” written down – make sure it is an a place you can see it on the day you take action.  Motivation needs to be revved up again and again.

recommend daily graphic

Pick one area of your office that you want to organize.  Write down the steps you need to take to get that accomplished.  If you get stuck, or have questions, use the comments below.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I have gotten quite a bit off my to-do list in the last few days, but not all that I had planned.

The sticky notes have helped me to put on paper the thoughts in my head and that has helped me to take action.  I was always thinking of things I wanted to do, for my business and in my personal life, at the entirely wrong moment.  Now I have a place to write down what I’m thinking about and actually do some of the things on the notes.

I have always used Google Calendar and have the app on my phone.  But since I started to use the sticky notes, I have then added my plans to the calendar and I haven’t missed any time specific event since I started this process.  And while I haven’t accomplished all of the items on the sticky notes, I am better able to see where my time is being spent – a great eye opener.  I realize there are definitely times that I could be spending on my business that I’m not.

Right now my calendar is sticky not heavy at the end of the week as I move forward some of the tasks I haven’t quite gotten accomplished.

Sticky note week end heavy

A lot of the items I took care of this week were more personal than business specific, but I really feel that as solopreneurs, it is very hard to truly split the two.  I have also been more focused on my business and how I’m spending my time even though there was a more personal focus.  I truly believe that the more we accomplish in any aspect of our life has a ripple effect and gives us confidience.  So, alternatively the more you put off tasks you mean to do, the lower your self esteem plummets.

Of all my household chores, I like laundry the best, so if my laundry basket starts to overflow, it is usually a direct reflection that I’m feeling overwhelmed in other areas of my life.  So I do a load or 2 and get the pile down, and as I do the laundry I end up having the energy and desire to get other tasks done – that ripple effect.  You may not know what it is that makes your feel accomplished and can help you get over that hump, but now you know you should be paying attention and see what task you like enough to help you get that ball rolling, or those ripples rippling.

So I plan on, I accomplish more and I am learning more about myself and how I’m spending my time.  Let me know in the comments below how you are doing with your plans.

 

Time is on My Side

I have gathered up my sticky notes and pens, and pages and pages of calendars – I am ready.

This is my desk :).

This is my desk :).

Seriously, I needed to sit down and really look at where I am spending my time.  I mentioned in the previous post that I had recently gone back to work 4 days a week – almost 40 hours per week.  I really underestimated how tiring a 12 hour workday can be – I can’t guarantee I can get anything done after work on those days (big eye opener).

So while this is a sticky note method – I’m also updating my Google Calendar.  I added my new work schedule, I have been just mentally remembering not to overbook myself – this hasn’t really worked out.  Just the visual of seeing the blocks of time that are already taken up and being able to see where I have blocks of open time.  This has been the best part for me so far.  I am a winner just for what I have added to my Google Calendar to finish out the year.

I think one of the reasons, we get unorganized in the first place is lack of planning and lack of tracking.  Just putting my plans on paper has given them new life, they have dates and times attached to them.  And by using the sticky notes and Google Calendar – I can also easily make adjustments as I go along.  I’m sure there will be changes, so I really like the flexibility of this system.

One aspect that I had to change from Angela’s original plan was the ability to lay out all the calendar pages and leave them out for several days.  I don’t have a place to lay them out in the first place, so I put the pages into a 3 ring binder.  I divided the monthly pages from the weekly pages.  This way I have easy access anytime I need to add any more sticky notes.

As you can see in the picture I used the Rio De Janeiro Collection of colors from Post It Notes.  I figured this way when I buy more I’m sure I’m getting the same colors.  And by giving each area of my life it’s own color I look at my weekly schedule pages and I want to see an equal balance of the colors, not just 1 color dominating.  And if I see very little of a color, I know that is an area that needs something.  Another thing I did to help me easily remember what color I assigned to each aspect of my life, I wrote it along the edge of the sticky pad – that way I didn’t have to stop and think about whether I was using the right color or not – it was right in front of me.

If I didn’t have this challenge – presented by my coach – and perpetuated by my creating these blog posts – I may not have gotten to this project yet.  In other words, I would have kept procrastinating.  If you are putting off your next step, I encourage you to move forward and procrastinate later :).  If you want to be held accountable, just leave a comment below and I will follow up and encourage you to take that next step.

This project is not over by a long shot, I am still adding sticky notes all the time – and feeling more and more focused.  Til the next update….

How I’m Getting Time Back

I have added to many priorities in my life and feel like I’m losing my grip.  I pride myself on staying on top of my business and lately that has not been true.

So it’s time to take a step back and see what I can do to get back on track.

I am working 4 days a week outside my home.  I’m rarely posting to my blog, which I truly do so love.  I’ve not sent any new inventory to Amazon for over 2 weeks (thankfully I’m still making sales :)).  I’ve started to put back on some the weight I just worked so hard to lose, and I wasn’t really done losing weight yet either.  I’m eating on the run and making poor choices.  Now some of these are not directly related to business, but I feel that as a solopreneur everything is related.  If we are the primary aspect of our business, and our health is suffering, our work suffers.  If we are distracted by pressures in our “real lives,”  that affects our ability to focus on our business.

Okay off my soapbox.  To fix these areas of my life I know just identifing the problem is a wonderful first step.  I’m a planner, it is my nature, so I need a plan of action.   My coach Angela Wills, has a planning system she calls the Sticky Note Unstuck Method.  I’m going to use her system to create a time management schedule.  I feel that is the first step to trying to keep all my ducks in a row.  Quack Quack.mama and baby ducks walking in grass

Angela’s system uses different color sticky notes, so I have identified 5 differnet colors – so far.

Sticky_Note_Pad

  • Personal
  • Household
  • Ecommerce
  • Internet Based Business
  • Work

I like that fact that she wants this to be a fun task and use color and be creative, I want to make sure this works for me, not just copycat someone else.  When I’m away from home I’m keeping notes (physical and on my phone) to add to stickies later and place on the calendars.

This process will take time, and I will be sharing my experience with you and you can decide if you would like to try it for yourself.

Do You Use An Alarm Clock In Your Business?

I have been playing around with using more and more alarm’s as reminders in several areas of my life – including my business.

The idea developed from a podcast from Gretchin Rubin, the author of  The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, where they talked about useing an alarm clock to go to bed, as well as to wake up in the morning. The overall goal was to improve your sleep patterns and overall happiness in life. I liked the idea and did start setting an alarm to go to bed at night – and guess what – I have been having the most amazing sleep of my life. It really worked for me. I’ll admit, I don’t always go to bed when the alarm goes off, but it reminds my every night, so I feel in control. I can go to bed or stay up a little longer, or even a lot longer.

The word control can be off-putting to some people, but the overall sensation is less chaos. I don’t suddenly realize it’s already midnight and I should have gone to bed hours ago. I tend to get lost in books and movies and loose track of time :). I’m making the decision about my actions, but my alarm reminds not to forget to make that conscious decision.

Okay so now that I’m sleeping better, I think there must be more I can do with this alarm system. But don’t go overboard, an alarm going off every 10 minutes all day every day will not make you productive or happy.

I have used the alarm system so I don’t spend too much time sitting behind my computer. When I sit down to write and concetrate on the task at hand I can write for 45 minutes tops and then the words become gibberish. I tend to stray way off topic, so I set my alarm for 30 minutes and whether I’m done or not, I stop and get up or at least switch tasks. I’m pretty sure back in school they used to teach us that 20 minutes was ideal study time and then you needed a break – guess they were right.

I also use an alarm to remind me to go back and finish the task I interuppted if I didn’t finish what I was working on. So if I’m working on a blog post and the alarm goes off signalling my 30 minutes is up and I’m not done, I set an alarm for 1-2 hours later to remind me to go back and finish what I started.

This can be accomplished using reminders, but I like the added benefit of the snooze button. I can use the snooze if I need a little bit more time, or if I don’t turn the alarm off, it goes into snooze mode and reminds me again. This has made all the difference in my keeping track off all the things I want to accomplish in a day.

take some time to discover old fashioned tag

I have been using alarms when I put in a load of laundry to remind me to go change loads. I set the alarm to remind me to give the dog his pills. I have found lots of wonderful ways to use alarms in my life and in my business, so I encourage you, if this ideal appeals to you at all, give it a try. Start small and if it feels comfortable and you feel that you are improving your efficiency add more. Don’t start off by using too many alarms, you will get overwhelmed and you not even remember why you set each alarm.

Let me know if you like this system and how it works for you in the comments below.

My Ideal Day Update

As you know I hate to-do lists, and much prefer An Ideal Day List.

binders labeled task and list

So I have been using this system for a few months now, and I still love it.  I am having a conflict about the fact that the app I’m using on my phone is called ToDoList – I may have to create my own app :).

But, I still work best with a reminder list of some kind.  I like to be able to look at a list to think about what all needs to get done and decide what I should work on next.

Some people don’t like the idea of having a less than ideal day so this tip doesn’t work for them, but if it appeals to you, I encourage you to give it a try.  And if you like the concept, tweak it to make it work for you.

I have put some priority markers for some items, such as simply placing a star next to an item on my list or sometimes I put it in my calendar to create a reminder for me.  It depends on the task and the importance of it being done.

Last week I was trying to get some work done here in my office and the priority items for that day were being thwarted by some technical problems that were beyond my control.  I had to be patient – some days I am better at this than others.

So, I turned to me list and found other tasks I was able to complete while I waited for the technological demons to depart.  It made me so happy to quickly see the other things I wanted to get done that day.  I accomplished several items and later I was able to make some progress on my initial priority project, but not as much as I had intended.

I didn’t get frustrated and quit, I readjusted and found I was very accomplished.  It felt like an ideal day, even though I didn’t actually knock everything off my list.

My point is that you need to find your small wins – celebrate those victories – and keep using what is working for you and ditch what isn’t working you and your business and your life.

If you feel like your business is out of control you may want to sign up for my free gift to you “5 Quick Fixes for Your Out of Control Business”

What Organized Really Means To Me

Too many people I talk to have this idea that to be organized you have to have everything put away in a pristine white space with labels on everything.  This is crap.

This is someone else’s vision.  You need to figure out what organized really looks like for you.  If you love color, this is a good place to start.  If you hate labels, don’t use them.

Use color if you like color.

I believe, and I teach, that being organized is being able to find what you are looking for, when you are looking for it.  If you can’t find the tools you use to run your business, then you won’t keep your customers happy for very long.  And your business is going to feel like such a drag, if you always feel behind.

Now don’t get me wrong some people thrive on stress, or at least believe they do.  If you do then you should organize your business to create productive stress, rather than let stress build up on you unexpectedly.

Personally, I like to have things labeled and so I have a label maker and use it all the time.  I like to have my business books close at hand, so I have a bookcase in my office for specifically for those selected titles.   I keep a spiral notebook next to my computer so that I can jot down ideas or any kind of notes easily.

What I really want for you is to make sure that you aren’t trying to reach someone else’s idea of being organized.  I worked with a woman several years ago that always had piles of paper all over her desk, but she could put her hands on almost anything you asked without hesitation.  Now when people looked at her desk they assumed she wasn’t organized, but I say she was – it just didn’t look “normal.”

So chaos can be okay if you can really find what you are looking for.  Just make sure you aren’t allowing a mess that isn’t productive for you.

There used to be a TV show on HGTV called “Mission: Organization” that had people come in and get people whose houses had become cluttered and get them organized.  Now they weren’t focusing on the home office, but they did sometimes do the office area.  I loved to see the before and after, but I really liked the 3 month follow up to see if they had kept up the clutter free lifestyle.  The people that did the best were the ones that continued to tweak the changes to suit their family, and they had lasting results.

So my best advice is to find what works for you and keep tweaking the areas that aren’t working for you.

I would love for you to share your experience in the comments below.